Ontario Construction News staff writer
The Ontario government is planning to fast-track the construction of highways and transit systems to help the province financially recover from the impact of COVID-19, Premier Doug Ford announced Monday.
“As the public health trends continue to improve an as we continue to get a handle on this virus, we are charting our path to economic recovery. We’re getting Ontario back to on track and that means putting people to work,” Premier Doug Ford said in a press conference on Monday.
“It means getting things built,” Ford said.
“Getting infrastructure built, it means roads, bridges, highways, transit and subways. These infrastructure projects serve our community and building them will put tens of thousands of people back to work.
Ford says the infrastructure plan is “how we’re going to restart jobs and development. It’s how we’re going to strengthen our communities and its how we are going to create opportunities for people.”
If legislation is approved, the plan would get shovels in the ground on major infrastructure projects, “much quicker than the typical way government does business,” Ford said.
Included in the plan is over $2.6 billion in highway construction projects this year, including:
Widening Highway 3 between Essex and Leamington from 2 to 4 lanes
Widening Highway 401 from London to Tilbury from 4 to 6 lanes
Twinning the Garden City Skyway into St. Catharines
“People are tired of the potholes. People are tired of being stuck in traffic, and so we are going to repair, resurface and widen these roads,” Ford said.
Along with speeding up transit projects, the provincial legislation will also encourage public-private partnerships to build additional affordable homes near transit hubs.
Projects would create more transit-oriented communities instead of standalone transit or subway stations, integrating transit into communities, and allowing the private sector tohelp pay for new stations and, at the same time, build more housing options.
Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said transportation related construction is vital to the province’s economic recovery.
“Construction puts people to work, increases money spent in nearby communities and provides Ontario with infrastructure that keeps people and essential goods moving,” she said, adding that legislation is needed to develop tools that will also accelerate major highway projects.
“If we want to get shovels in the ground quickly, we need fast access to land to prepare construction sites while balancing the rights of property owners,” she said.
As part of the government’s plan, the province is proposing to accelerate key provincial highway construction and priority transit projects by establishing an exemption from the Hearing of Necessity process. Provincial Hearings of Necessity occur approximately 5-10 times per year on average for provincial highway projects. Each hearing adds months of red tape and construction delays for critical provincial infrastructure, costing up to five months for transit projects and up to 12 months for provincial highway projects.
“Communities need reliable transit, transportation and housing as a strong foundation for future economic growth,” said Minister Mulroney. “These initiatives would create tens of thousands of new well-paying jobs, make our roads safer, reduce gridlock, and put home ownership within reach of many people across the province.”
The government would also enter into new commercial agreements with partners to build transit-oriented communities Procurement has begun on three of four planned major transit projects.
Ford says his government is proposing legislation that “would make it easier and faster” to build provincial highways and major transit infrastructure projects, as well as affordable housing.
The government also says it plans to enter into new commercial agreements with partners to build “transit-oriented communities,” which would better integrate transit in communities by building it closer to housing complexes — including affordable housing — and downtown cores.
Kinga Surma, the associate minister of transportation, says the province is prioritizing the Greater Toronto Area, adding that agreements on future projects are in place with both York Region and the City of Toronto.
Those agreements, Surma says, include plans to fast-track four major Toronto-area transit projects.
“Residents have raised concerns as to why nothing gets built,” Surma said.
“We are making changes to address this.”
Ford says the province’s $2.6 billion-plan to fast-track these projects will put tens of thousands of people back to work.
“People are tired of waiting,” Ford said Monday.
“We’re charting our path for economic recovery.”